Richmond, Virginia (CNN) - Mitt Romney's campaign awkwardly backpedaled Saturday after the presumptive Republican presidential nominee waded into a contentious GOP primary fight in Virginia during his second campaign event alongside his new running mate Paul Ryan.
Speaking at a rally in Ashland, a picturesque town just north of Richmond, Romney described Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, who was in attendance, as "a great friend, and I hope the next governor of Virginia."
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The remarks caught the attention of Virginia politicos who know that Bolling is running for the 2013 gubernatorial nomination against state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a darling of conservative activists who is trouncing Bolling in early polling.
The apparent endorsement was not out of left field. Bolling has played a formal role in both of Romney's presidential campaigns, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has also endorsed him.
But to take sides in a high-profile Republican primary battle when the day's mission was to roll out the Ryan pick and unite the conservative base struck many observers as odd.
Romney and his aides tried to walk back the comments after the event.
Speaking to an overflow crowd after the Ashland rally, Romney talked about the need to elect a Republican governor in 2013 and said: "There are a couple of guys in the race, I love them both. I want to see one of those guys take his place."
Separately, a Romney adviser told CNN that while Romney "wants to see a Republican as governor of Virginia, he has not endorsed in the primary."
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